Friday 25 May 2018

Confessions of a millennial: why I ignore Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Snapchat

How on earth does a 'millennial' consume social media these days? What networks are popular for what reasons? 21 year-old Irish Independent reporter Karen Aria Lin explains the services she and her friends use, and why

Social media: What networks are popular for what reasons.
Social media: What networks are popular for what reasons.

Karen Aria Lin

My closest friends and I are a typical group of college students. We play board games on Friday nights into the wee hours of the morning.

We meet for dinner from time to time. We have deep conversations. But there's one way in which we're a little different from some of our friends: we ignore social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Snapchat.

Instead, we focus more on Facebook. Much of Facebook is a waste of time: I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted scrolling through the news feed, marvelling over the acquaintances who already have babies or exciting travel plans or perfect relationships. But it's addictive.

Fortunately, my roommate showed me a handy Chrome extension called "Kill News Feed," which I installed. Now the extension loads a message that says "don't get distracted by Facebook!" instead of endless news feeds.

The result is that I've minimised my activity on Facebook, using it only to message friends, invite others to events, or send photos.

After blocking my news feed, I no longer have to envy or fuss over "friends" I barely know in real life.

Whereas Facebook has served many of our needs, Twitter is less practical in the sense that none of my friends and I are famous people with millions of followers hanging on to our every word.

I have little time to actively maintain and grow my Twitter account, so every occasional tweet I publish disappears into a void. Some of my friends use Twitter to tweet on-the-fly thoughts too casual for Facebook, but most ignore their accounts. I return to Twitter in fits and starts, following different news sites and retweeting interesting articles every couple of months.

My relationship with the happy blue bird lacks consistency.

Snapchat is popular outside my immediate circle of friends, so I observe it with a sense of distance. It's amusing to watch people constantly pulling faces at their phones and racking their brains for witty captions.

I see people run around making "Snapchat stories," compiling a stream of videos and photos that show up in their friends' Snapchat feeds. I've never understood the importance of sending my friends photos that self-destruct within 10 seconds, but I can't deny the app's popularity.

Neither can I ignore the prevalence of Instagram. Although I've never had an account, I've watched people worry over the selection of photo filters and check their phones to see how many "likes" they were receiving. My food-loving friends post pictures of their meals on Instagram, and my traveling buddies post selfies of themselves in exotic locations.

The heavy focus on images rather than text is a reason I haven't created an Instagram account. In a similar vein, I've stayed off Pinterest to reduce the amount of clutter in my social media life. My browser has enough bookmarked websites without my need for a virtual pinboard. Also, no one I know uses Pinterest.

I admit to scrolling through quite a few of my friends' Tumblr blogs. I myself never used Tumblr because I wrote in journals throughout secondary school instead of pouring my heart into online posts.

When I decided to create an online presence, I settled on the more professional Wordpress platform. For the most part, my friends have also created their own websites on Squarespace and Wordpress, either deleting their Tumblr blogs or leaving them as testaments to their angst-filled teenage days. But I do know people who still actively use Tumblr to work through their thoughts and meet new people.

Many of my friends and acquaintances also use LinkedIn, the professional networking site. As my impending graduation from college looms closer, I become more and more dedicated to improving my LinkedIn profile. But as with Facebook, I refuse to indulge in it too often, for fear of falling into the trap of comparing my own professional life with my friends' lucrative-sounding jobs.

Ideally, Google+ should be more popular. It allows us to navigate beautifully between Photos, Hangouts, and other handy Google apps. Most of us have Gmail accounts and share documents through Google Drive.

Yet my friends and I still cling tightly to Facebook, simply because it had better timing. We are reluctant to give up the networks, communities, photo albums, and message histories that we established on Facebook over the years.

It's not easy to disengage from social media sites. Quitting a social media site means leaving a community in the online world with real consequences in the real world.

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